Strategic Alliance Gets Surprising News


    HOLLAND — The most recent meeting of the West Michigan Strategic Alliance Leadership Forum revealed some engaging, yet subtle, facts about the region — especially regarding the area’s political boundaries and growth pattern.

    The surprising information came from Michael Gallis, a Charlotte, N.C.-based regional planning consultant hired by the Alliance to help the organization reach its regional planning objectives. Gallis is compiling a comprehensive database of Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties called the Common Framework, which will be used by the Alliance as a foundation for future regional planning.

    Gallis shared a few of his early findings with members of the Leadership Forum, which showed that:

    • The Michigan Department of Transportation, the planning and development regions and the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) all have distinct boundaries within the region, meaning that planning is not integrated throughout the region.

    • The area’s three metropolitan planning organizations are based in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland. If the three cities are connected by a line on a map, the connection forms a triangle. The region’s population growth is concentrated inside the triangle where an MPO isn’t located, meaning that the planning centers are located on the region’s fringes.

    • The tourism, convention and entertainment sectors are interested in marketing art exhibits to an audience outside the region. At the same time, Grand Valley State University is developing an “eco-tourism” project. Both efforts are proceeding independently of each other.

    The Alliance wants future planning for the region to be done as a regional unit, as the organization of public officials, business leaders and nonprofit executive directors contend that doing so will allow West Michigan to compete better in the global marketplace and retain the area’s quality of life.

    The 40-member Leadership Forum plans to meet at least a dozen more times over the next 18 months. The Alliance hopes to have the beginnings of its 25-year strategic regional plan in place within the next two years.

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